Charges against four Georgian photojournalists, arrested on July 7, involve passing of sensitive information, including schedule of unspecified confidential events to an organization identified as a spying network, Manan Manjgaladze, the Georgian President's spokesperson said.
"I cannot speak in detail about this very sensitive ongoing case, but there is one point I should make very clear: this case is about a serious leakage of information from our institutions, not about journalism or media activities," she said in written remarks posted on the Georgian President's website.
"The fact that the suspects were photographers has been stressed, but they were not charged yesterday for anything connected to their activity as photographers."
"They were charged for passing confidential information, in particular for passing written documents or schedule of confidential events to an organization identified as spying network," Manjgaladze said.
More details of the case, which has been classified as "secret", remain unknown.
She stressed that two of the arrested were state employees, "one with close access to the President. Irakli Gedenidze worked as a personal photographer of President Saakashvili and another one, Giorgi Abdaladze, a freelance photographer, was hired by the Georgian Foreign Ministry.
"They could as well have been occupying any other position than photographer, the case would have been exactly handled the same way," the President's spokesperson said.
Two others, arrested on July 7, are Natia Gedenidze, a wife of Irakli Gedenidze, who is also a photographer working with Tbilisi-based newspaper PrimeTime and Zurab Kurtsikidze, photographer for the European Pressphoto Agency (epa).
"I cannot recall of any journalist - neither supportive nor hostile to the government - being charged in Georgia with spying accusation," Manjgaladze said. "The people arrested were not at all known for expressing any political view and it is outrageous to connect their arrest in any way with the question of freedom of media".